By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
ASHLAND — Trustees of the Ashland Town Library are asking voters to approve a petitioned warrant article which calls for spending $800,000 to purchase and renovate the former Ashland Elementary School as the town's new library.
It will mark the second time that the issue has come before voters. Two years ago, a proposed $950,000 bond issue was opposed by the budget committee and lost 149-299 as it would have exceeded the budget committee's recommended budget by more than 10 percent.
This year, the budget committee voted 6-3 against the the warrant article but selectmen voted 3-1 on Jan. 25 to place it on the ballot with necessary language informing voters that passage of the article would exceed the 10 percent limit.
The building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1877-78 and served as a school until 1990. It is currently owned by the Tri-County Community Action Program, which purchased the three-story brick building from the Ashland School District in 2008, paying $1 plus a $44,000 reimbursement to the school district for the demolition of the former high school building.
Community Action then spent $1.25 million for restoration and improvements to the school, bringing the building up to code, installing new heating and cooling systems and a zoned sprinkler system, and putting in energy-efficient lighting and windows, as well as building a handicapped entrance and installing an elevator to provide access to all floors.
The current library is housed in a two-story clapboard building owned by the town and managed by the Scribner Trustees. Library Trustee David Ruell says that, with 1,245 square feet of space, all shelving is full and adding new materials requires dispensing with older, still-valuable materials. Although the library has a ramped entrance, it is not fully handicapped-accessible, with the second floor inaccessible for someone in a wheelchair, and it has only on-street parking.
The school, by contrast, has a dedicated parking lot with space for 15 vehicles. With 7,920 square feet of space, it would give the library six times the amount of room for its collections, activities and storage.
Ruell says that one of the big advantages of moving the library into the historic building is that the new Ashland Elementary School is located on adjacent land and is a short, safe walking distance from the elementary school so students could use the library for in-school visits and after-school activities.
In addition to the main circulation area on the first floor, there would be three office spaces that could serve as rooms for study and tutoring. There would be triple the current space for a children's room, the Scribner Library has room for only 12 children and when the library holds a reading program, they have to remove the furniture from the room. There also would be a computer lab with space for laptop users.
Plans also call for a young adult area on the second floor, with space for the storage of historical records and volumes. The main collection also would be on the second floor, along with the library's audio-visual collection, work tables, and comfortable seating.
The third floor has a large space with original woodwork, blackboards, and a divider that could accommodate large and small community and governmental functions.
Ruell says that TCCAP has reduced the sale price by $150,000 from two years ago and that trustees would apply $25,000 from a capital reserve fund towards library shelving, which would reduce the amount of bond issue to $775,000.
He says that library trustees are planning open houses for the public from 5 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 1 and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 5.
The bond issue will appear on the town ballot on March 8 as article 4 and requires a three-fifths vote for passage.
Ashland voters will be asked to approve a bond issue to purchase the former Ashland Elementary School from the Tri-County Community Action Program and renovate it for use as the town library. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)
02-19 ashland school
The Ashland Town Library has only 1,245 square feet of usable space and all of its shelves are full. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)
02-19 ashland town library
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